Expassionates, with Barclay Martin
Better than: Lung cancer
There's no place I would have rather experienced my first smoke-free night in Kansas City than Davey's Uptown. Many a night have I cursed the dive's omnipresent smoke cloud, and just as many nights I've avoided it altogether for that very reason. Thanks to the great voters of Kansas City, I was stoked to experience my first (mostly) smokeless night in Kansas City. As an added bonus, Expassionates and Barclay Martin were set to perform – the latter joining the bill following an unfortunate last-minute cancellation by San Francisco's The Botticellis (a great band well worth checking out despite their unexplained truancy).
More after the jump.
Barclay Martin is an easygoing fellow whose phone message invites you to “Leave me a kind word.” He's also one of the most dedicated and talented songwriters that Kansas City can call its own. Martin's new album Dawn could well be a breakout endeavor with its blend of saucy jazz licks and mellow soft-rock. Alternately copping bits of James Taylor and Harry Connick Jr., Martin sings without pretense and plays acoustic guitar with nimble fingers stretched across jazzy seventh chords. He's best experienced in a cabaret setting like Bar Natasha or JP Wine Bar, but he adapts well to dive-bar stages when armed with only an acoustic guitar. Playing mostly selections from Dawn, Martin invoked his band's improvisatory vibe with a well-paced set of jazzy folk numbers. Hopefully he'll continue to perform more outside of Kansas City's off-Broadway circuit (JP, Jardine's, Bar Natasha) so all the disgruntled ex-smokers can get a whiff.
Capping the night off was Expassionates, a four-piece that sounds unlike any other outfit in the area. Built around frontman Scott Easterday's dark and expressive baritone, the group purveys a sultry sound that's not quite rock and not quite alt-country. Guitarist Marco Pascolini (also of Mr. Marco's V7) injects some bordertown licks into the shuffling rhythms laid down by drummer Sam Platt. There's a loose, gangly vibe to the band's shows that befits Easterday's expressive lyrics and their obtuse narratives. The group has been writing new material for a sophomore album ten years removed from its 1998 debut. Easterday reports that the basic tracks are all done, so fans may actually get another Expassionates record before the end of the year.
Critic's bias: Love music, hate smoking.
Random detail: Sound guy Chad Meise got a nice round of applause when Easterday shouted him out. Meise is a big reason why that Davey's room can sound amazing on the right night.
By the way: As of Saturday, folks at Davey's were still practicing a bit of civil disobedience with regard to the smoking ban.